- US embassy and other Western missions were evacuated when Taliban forces enter Kabul.
- The Taliban conquered almost all of Afghanistan in just over a week.
- A Taliban spokesman told Al-Jazeera English that they seek unconditional surrender.
- Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country on Sunday as the Taliban entered the capital and US troops fought to remove thousands of American and Afghan diplomats from his embassy in Kabul.
The Taliban, who had been on the outskirts of Kabul for hours, announced shortly afterward that they would move to a panic-stricken city throughout the day as helicopters flew over to evacuate US embassy personnel. Smoke rose near the complex as the team destroyed important documents. Several other Western missions also prepared to withdraw their personnel.
Soon, the Taliban are expected to declare the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan from the presidential palace in Kabul, an official told The Associated Press.
Afghans fearing the Taliban would reinstate the kind of brutal rule that virtually eliminated women’s rights rushed to leave the country, lining up at ATMs to withdraw their savings, the AP reported.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken flatly rejected comparisons to the ignominious US withdrawal from Vietnam in 1975, which ended with iconic images of American helicopters evacuating Americans from the embassy roof in Saigon.
“This is clearly not Saigon,” argued Blinken, characterizing the embassy and other officials’ withdrawal as “very deliberate.”
The US embassy in Kabul warned on Sunday that the security situation in Afghanistan was deteriorating and instructed US citizens to “take shelter” amid reports of gunfire at the airport in Afghanistan’s capital. The embassy security alert came as US troops were evacuating all embassy diplomatic personnel to the airport and when the Taliban entered Kabul, apparently ready to take over the government.
The Taliban also remain in control of strategic border crossings, according to the Associated Press, allowing them to smuggle weapons and other essentials while rejuvenating forces outside the country.
END OF A 20-YEAR ERA, STARTED WITH THE ‘WAR ON TERROR’
The fall of Kabul marks the final chapter of America’s longest war, which began after September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks planned by Al Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden, then harbored by the Taliban government. A US-led invasion forced the Taliban to retreat.
In February 2020, Washington under then-President Donald Trump signed an agreement with the Taliban that limited direct military action against insurgents. This allowed the fighters to gain strength and move quickly to seize key areas when President Joe Biden announced his plans to withdraw all US forces by the end of this month.
TALIBAN AWAITING ‘PACIFIC TRANSFER FROM KABUL CITY
On Sunday, Taliban insurgents approached Kabul. Taliban negotiators in the capital discussed the transfer of power, said an Afghan official who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, according to the AP.
It was unclear when this transfer would take place and who among the Taliban was negotiating. Government-side negotiators included former President Hamid Karzai, leader of the political and paramilitary group Hizb-e-Islami Gulbudin Hekmatyar and Abdullah, who has been a vocal critic of Ghani.
Karzai, with his three daughters, appeared in a video, saying he remained in Kabul.
“We are trying to resolve the Afghanistan issue with the Taliban leadership peacefully,” he said, while the roar of a helicopter could be heard above.
Afghanistan’s acting defense minister, Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, attacked Ghani.
“They tied our hands behind us and sold the country,” he wrote on Twitter. “Cursing Ghani and his tribe.”
Taliban fighters tried to calm the capital’s residents, insisting they would not enter people’s homes or interfere with business. They also said they would offer an “amnesty” for those who worked with the Afghan government or foreign forces.
“No one’s life, property, and dignity will be harmed and the lives of Kabul’s citizens will not be at risk,” the insurgents said in a statement, according to the AP.
Source: with agencies